Health Focus Has Strong Showing at CES
Last week, gadget enthusiasts from around the world gathered for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. While this event is typically known for the unveiling of flashy new TVs and breakthrough smartphones, the 2013 CES featured a refreshing emphasis on health and fitness technology. Over 215 exhibitors were on hand to showcase innovative products that help to keep you healthy — or, at least, they will remind you that there is more you could be doing to be healthy.
There was a sea of wearable devices in every shape and color, vibrating forks that let you know when you are eating too fast, medical devices that connect to your smartphone or tablet, and even brain wave sensors that could be used as a remote control for a toy helicopter.
Wearable Fitness Comes of Age
The wearable fitness tracker space is getting crowded, with some analysts — like Juniper — projecting growth to hit $1.5 billion by 2014. And even though there are slight overlaps in functionality, I was surprised to see that most of these devices are actually quite unique. They come in every shape and size and may be worn on your arm, wrist, in your pocket, embedded in your shoe or clipped to your clothing.
One of my favorites at CES was the new Fitbit Flex™. The Fitbit Flex™ is a small wristband that can be worn day and night. The device tracks steps, distance traveled, calories burned and sleep amounts. While the device is water resistant, representatives don’t recommend wearing the device during swimming activities.
Like most other devices in this category, the Flex allows users to wirelessly sync to Android and iOS devices via the Fitbit app. Once users download the app on their mobile device and sign up for a Fitbit account, they have access to many of the additional Fitbit features, including the ability to track food consumption and weight and view their progress in each of these areas graphically. They can also find friends on Fitbit and compete to take the most steps.
In December, Intouch Solutions gifted all associates with little green Fitbit Zip™s. Many of my coworkers at Intouch have seen opportunities for pharma to help patients live healthier lifestyles through partnerships or integration with these types of tracking devices.
Another favorite in this category is the ibitz™ tracker by GeoPalz. The ibitz™ product is designed to get the entire family up and moving. Of course, the device syncs to iPhone or Android devices, and adults will see the standard activity tracking details. What I really like about the ibitz™ device is the engagement for kids. They can download an interactive game that lets them interact with a Tamagotchi™-like character. To keep their character alive, they must be active. The more activity the ibitz™ PowerKey detects, the more interactivity kids can have with the on-screen character. GeoPalz is also in conversations with other mobile game publishers to explore opportunities to collaborate on in-game incentives powered by the ibitz™ PowerKey. One idea has been to allow kids to earn TV watching or video game playing time according to their physical activity. As a parent, this is absolutely something I could see my children getting excited about! And for pharma, there are similar opportunities to track and reward positive behaviors, like physical activity or even medication adherence.
Brains, Birds and Bubbles
Finally, there was one more product category that drew a lot of attention: brain activity sensing devices. Toronto-based InteraXon had their Muse product available for conference attendees to try on and experience. With the headset on, users could see their brain activity on one screen, while controlling birds flying and bubbles on another screen. Focused, more active brain waves caused the birds and bubbles to move more quickly, while relaxing the brain activity slowed the on-screen movements. While these initial demonstrations may seem trivial, I believe the future is bright for this product. The ability to graphically illustrate someone’s brain activity could help users learn how to better control stress and anxiety and help improve motivation, productivity and concentration.
InteraXon was taking pre-orders at CES, and they anticipate shipping the devices in the third quarter of this year. Along with receiving the Muse device, an application developer’s toolkit will also be available.
Tomorrow’s Devices Available Today
Overall, the health and fitness focus of CES this year offered some fantastic devices that are available today, as well as some new innovations that will be available in the near future. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to see everything CES had to offer, but from the innovations I did have the chance to experience, I would say there are many opportunities pharma can explore to directly interact with patients and truly support and encourage them during treatment.